Phoenix has two chances to advance to West finals

Mercury Look for Knockout Win

By Jerry Brown,
Aug. 26, 2007

The Mercury went to Seattle Friday with two main obstacles — figuring out a way to stop Storm scoring machine Lauren Jackson and dealing with the prospect of playing the first game of a best-of-three playoff series on the road.

They came back home in control of both the series and their destiny after limiting Jackson to 16 points on only 10 shots. Phoenix was never seriously challenged in breezing to a 101-84 win and is now in the driver’s seat in this best-ofthree series.

After going nearly nine years (Aug. 27, 1998) without a playoff win — for reference, that was five months into the Diamondbacks’ inaugural baseball season — the Mercury now can punch a ticket to the Western Conference finals with one more either today at 4 p.m. or Tuesday night at US Airways Center.

“I’ve been with this franchise for awhile and we’ve never been to the playoffs, so making the first game a big win was fun and special,” said Mercury center Penny Taylor, who scored 22 points and outshined her friend and fellow Australian, Jackson. “We have a game in our pocket, but Seattle is a very talented team that’s not going to be in a very good mood after losing. We have no reason to take anything for granted.

“We didn’t worry about having to play on the road or their crowd, we just concentrated on playing our game and following through on the game plan we had.”

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Playing in her first WNBA postseason game, Diana Taurasi not only matched Taylor with 22 points but handcuffed Jackson by denying the ball and beating the league’s leading scorer to her favorite spots on the floor.

“Our plan is to try and make things uncomfortable for (Jackson) wherever she is,” Phoenix coach Paul Westhead said. “So if she chooses to go in, we’re going to try to go in. If she chooses outside, it’s a little more difficult to contain her. She came out a few times and got some open shots on us (late in the game). Fortunately, we had a large enough lead that we were able to sustain it.”

Cappie Pondexter added 21 points and eight assists as the Mercury hit 14 of 34 3-point attempts and won each of the first three quarters in building a 17-point lead.

WNBA champions in 2004, Seattle is now one loss away from their third first-round postseason exit in a row. And if the Sonics aren’t able to secure a new arena deal in the next few months, the Sonics and Storm could be out of Seattle soon.

“We’ve got two games so this series is not over,” Seattle coach Anne Donovan said. “We didn’t play our best basketball (in Game 1), no doubt. I thought the second half we shook out of it a little bit and started to wake up. Now we’ve made it difficult and we’re going to have to do this the hard way, but we’ve had playoffs where we won the game and then came back and lost the next two. We’ll see if we can turn it around this year.”

COPYRIGHT 2007, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.